ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — You may want to get started on your holiday shopping a little bit earlier this year, especially if you have little ones.
It may seem like you hear that every year, but this season is a little different.
Supply chain issues across the country are having an impact on all sorts of consumer goods, specifically toys and games.
“It’s a real recipe for disaster. There’s a multi-dimensional problem that’s going on here and we’re all facing the consequences of it. It’s like whack-a-mole, you smack one problem down, it’s like bam, another one. And then another one pops up. It’s pretty crazy right now,” said Steven Carnovale, an Assistant Professor of Supply Chain Management with Saunders College of Business at RIT.
Carnovale said there are a few reasons we may be seeing this problem.
For one, demand has been up for games, toys, and electronics, as more people are at home during the pandemic.
“Warehouses are filled up to the brim and they’re having a difficult time because when COVID happened, there was a huge shift towards online consumption. At the same time, a lot of the freight companies said well, we don’t need any more freight, shut it down. They didn’t take into account that people were gonna say, ‘Well, actually, I’m still gonna need stuff, I’m still gonna need food, I’m still getting the product, except I’m gonna buy it online now,” Carnovale said.
He also said many toys come from Southeast Asia, generally China, where transportation stopped going back and forth as much during the pandemic with changes in consumer spending.
“One of the things that stopped going to China were empty containers, which of course are critical to bring products back. So right now we’re in October, but the products that you see on the shelves were typically ordered probably some time in August,” Carnovale said.
He also said some of the more complex toys require chips, which there have also been a shortage of.
“There’s been a semiconductor shortage for about six to eight months. Now it’s impacting auto, it’s impacting iPads and computer personal devices, so that there’s a rippling effect there,” Carnovale said. “The crazy thing there is it’s not even like the important chip. It’s these little display drivers, the thing that connects the smart piece of that technology to what we see.”
The supply chain crisis is impacting businesses of all sizes, including large ones, like Target and Walmart, but also local, small businesses.
Matthew Vercant, the owner of Just Games in Rochester, knows this first hand.
“Supply chain stuff has been really crazy this year. We’ve been buying holiday supplies since March,” Vercant said.
“It kind of started last year, but it got bad in March, and this year, I can’t think of like a fourth quarter release that isn’t going to be impacted to the extent that some of them aren’t going to be here until January or February of next year,” he added.
Vercant said they were recently told by a manufacturing partner that some of their products weren’t going to arrive on time, something that is difficult to hear before the holidays.
“This next release that’s coming up in November is the first one where they said, ‘Hey, our guaranteed number… we can’t get any of that to you in time.’ So there’s been things like that that are going from really consistent, large companies with great logistics are still just not able to get it to retailers on their dates. And I think that’s only going to get worse over the next couple of months,” Vercant said.
The business owner said this means some products aren’t there for customers who are expecting it.
“To a certain extent, people are understanding. But it might end up meaning in many cases, that by the time we do have it, the interest in that product is much lower,” he explained.
So what can you do as a consumer this holiday season? Supply chain experts have a few tips.
Number one, they recommend shopping early. This means before Black Friday. But also, be ready to grab an item when you see it.
“Be on the lookout and if you see something, if you need a specific thing in mind, go out and just be ready to grab it when it’s there,” Carnovale said.
For tech products specifically, Carnovale recommends looking outside the box and exploring companies you don’t always use.
“Look carefully at secondary markets, things like Craigslist, eBay and other things like that. Do your homework and be careful with the transaction, but I think those secondary markets, sometimes people forget, and they provide opportunities to access products that otherwise potentially could be in scarcity,” Carnovale said.
Experts also recommend having a backup plan for kids, incase the gift they really want isn’t in stock this season.
“If you’re looking for a game like monopoly, we can suggest six things that are just like it,” Vercant said. “I think this is gonna be the year to kind of focus your search, and I think you’ll have a pretty good chance of getting it, it’s just gonna take more time and a little more patience.”
Experts also say consumers could pay a little bit more this year if the items are scarce.
“Scarcity typically drives demand, demand typically drives price, particularly when the supply is low. And so if it’s something where you’ve got everybody wanting it, low availability, the retailer who has it is going to profit off that,” Carovale explained.
For those looking to buy toys this holiday season, you can expect larger, bulkier toys that are harder to transport to be the most scarce, along with items that are new to the market. This includes toys like the newest lego set or L.O.L. doll.
To help with the ongoing supply crisis, President Biden announced the Port of Los Angeles would started operating 24/7 to help clear traffic jams.
Companies like Walmart, FedEx, and UPS have also agreed to extend hours to help move goods.